When I first moved to Maine many years ago, Brooklyn girl that I was, I thought a lobster roll was a Chinese egg roll made with lobster instead of shrimp.
Clearly, I have come a long way in 29 years.
A true Maine lobster roll is a celebration of summer, and the lobster is not meant to compete with other ingredients. This is where many a cook has strayed—adding an assortment of things, in various shades of green and otherwise – aromatic herbs, shredded iceberg lettuce, olives, capers, and even more horrifyingly, stuff like chipotles and mango, all in the vein of making it better. This misses the point – a lobster roll is all about the lobster and nothing else.
Well, maybe just adding a small amount of finely chopped celery is okay (so says my former cooking student Marcia).
And, maybe just a few chives on top for contrast (if you need to take a picture, ehem). To bind the lobster together, only a bit of mayonnaise is required, and my favorite is Stonewall Kitchen’s Farmhouse Mayo – flavorful and seasoned with enough salt that I find I don’t need to add any more.
Lastly, the griddled New England-style hot dog roll is part of the charm, and honestly something I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to until discovering the sturdier, larger and made from scratch version baked by Mainly Grains in South Portland.
Friends, my lobster roll game is strong, because, what I really want is a roll that can hold MORE lobster not less!
These rolls only need to be gently sliced apart, revealing their beautiful sides perfect for buttering and griddling, which results in a perfectly crispy-sided warm roll ready to pile high with lobster.
Since Mainly Grains’ rolls are a bit bigger than the conventional grocery store versions, you may get only 3 very generously stuffed rolls compared to 4 conventional rolls. Keep that in mind…don’t sneak too many tastes of that lobster while prepping…or you won’t have enough for the rolls! Which brings me to:
The best and most efficient time to make lobster rolls is the day after a traditional lobster bake or boiled/steamed lobster dinner. Toss a few extra lobsters in to boil/steam, let cool, refrigerate overnight, remove the meat and try to keep a few pieces of claw meat intact for an eye-catching, tantalizing garnish (but if you can’t, no big deal, use a little dollop of extra mayo with a sprinkle of paprika instead). Slice the tail meat in half length-wise and cut into chunks. Try not to eat said chunks. You know what I mean.
Other than Bite Into Maine’s lobster roll, which I enjoy at Fort Williams Park during the summer, the recipe below is my new favorite lobster roll. It’s easy to make these fat and pudgy rolls at home (a generous ¼-lb to 1/3-lb lobster each, depending on the size of the roll). Give it a try – I sincerely hope you do! Serve with sides of coleslaw, potato chips and hopefully a dose of sunshine.
And, of this, I am quite certain — it is The Way a Lobster Roll Should Be.
This post was written in partnership with Kennebunkport Resort Collection, a group of luxury and boutique hotels and restaurants in Kennebunkport, Maine. While I was compensated for this story and photographs, it’s 100% my opinion and personality and eagerness to make you a better cook with Maine ingredients!
- 1 pound (or slightly more) cooked lobster meat, keeping 4 of the claw meat intact for garnish
- ¼ cup finely minced celery
- ¼ cup best-quality mayonnaise (I prefer Stonewall Kitchen’s Farmhouse Mayo), plus additional to garnish (only if you didn’t get the claw meat out in one piece!)
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I literally just squeeze a few drops on the lobster)
- Sea salt, only if necessary and finely ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 best quality New England-style hot dog rolls (see note below)
- 5 to 6 tablespoons very soft salted butter
- Optional, but good:
- Paprika, to garnish
- A few finely minced chives
- In a medium bowl, lightly combine the lobster, celery, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Taste first, seasoning with salt only if necessary and lightly with pepper. Chill until ready to use, but no more than 8 hours in advance.
- When ready to serve, place a griddle or a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread both sides of the rolls with the butter and cook each side until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side (check your first roll, I found the bakery rolls browned faster, and it only took slightly more than a minute per side).
- Fill and mound each roll with the lobster mixture—they will be quite full. Garnish the top of each with a piece of claw meat, or place a little dollop of mayonnaise on top of each roll and sprinkle it with a smidge of paprika. Serve immediately.